With ‘Free Fall’, her first solo exhibition in the UK, American artist Avery Singer reflects upon her personal experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and explores the wider societal impact of collective trauma and proliferating image culture and media dissemination. Based entirely upon Singer’s childhood memories, the works and architectural intervention in the exhibition are a testament to the power of memory—and a memorial to a moment of terror and survival.
‘I turned 14 on 10 September 2001 and had just enrolled in high school. The following morning, home alone in my parents’ Tribeca apartment, I heard a plane, followed by an explosion that felt like an earthquake. From my front window, I saw the north tower of the World Trade Center in flames. Later, I found myself watching people fall to their death, wondering if they’d chosen to jump. In confronting this topic, I wanted to use art as a kind of conceptual mediator, to create an emotional landscape of this history for the audience to enter into and define their own experience.’—Avery Singer
Singer has created an environment that replicates her memories of the interior of the World Trade Center offices—spaces she regularly visited in the years prior to 9/11, as her mother worked in both towers of the World Trade Center.
Here, the artist combines the atmospheric banalities of office life with the architectural specificity of the towers’ iconic design by Minoru Yamasaki, creating a quietly disorientating installation that is part stage-set, part minimalist sculpture. Within this environment, the artist displays new paintings that bridge the gap between the anonymous digital world and her own interior universe by merging computer-generated worlds created on programs such as Autodesk Maya, the same 3D software used to build the exhibition’s immersive architectural environment based upon Singer’s memories.
‘When considering this event now as an artist, one thing that strikes me is the change in image culture between 2001 and 2023. Today, we live in a reality in which tragic events can be livestreamed and broadcast on a mass scale. If 9/11 happened today, we might have seen people’s real-time footage, an audio-visual experience of the last moments of their lives, every pixel of their trauma being put online.’—Avery Singer
Since 2010, Singer has employed the binary language of computer programs and industrial materials to remove the trace of her own hand while engaging the great traditions of painting and the legacy of modernism. The new large-scale paintings on view in ‘Free Fall’ combine digital renderings with manual and digital airbrush techniques, liquid and solid masking, and complex layering processes.
‘Free Fall’ is part of an ongoing body of new work that combines changes in the artist’s painting technique, to construct images using high-definition digital rendering and poor-quality machine airbrushing. This development also brought with it a shift in subject matter, to explore something autobiographical that took place in Singer’s life before she became an artist.
‘The windows, elevator doors, bland carpet, curtains, building materials and paint finishes all conjure a corporate environment. I wanted to create something that is part minimalist sculptural installation, part stage-set, a space that forms a narrative backdrop for my paintings. I’ve also designed a bookstore that will house self help books, reminiscent of the Borders below the towers that I visited as a kid, looking at books like ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ by Jackhansen Canfield.’—Avery Singer
‘Memory Cabinet,’ the gallery’ s first pop-up Education Lab, explores the theme of memory. This interactive pop-up space instigates a dialogue between the contents and themes of the exhibition with our visiting audiences and existing learning partners.
Avery Singer (b. 1987) was born and raised in New York NY. Her parents, the artists Janet Kusmierski and Greg Singer, named her after Milton Avery. Growing up in a creative community, Singer experimented with photography, film and drawing, but in those years never considered working with paint. In 2008,...
An Education Lab coinciding with the exhibition ‘Avery Singer. Free Fall’
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